Re: "New bench a symbol of reconciliation," The Gazette, Aug. 31.
Reading Kevin Ma's article on the new bench installed at the Healing Garden by Fortis Alberta, there is one big thing missing in the description of the events.
The bench is just outright advertising at a place for a memorial of the dead. I see that Fortis Alberta consulted some groups. But then you learn they started this process well after they decided to put the bench up, and didn't even consult our local Indigenous groups. That is not consultation. That's called covering your bases. I believe the elder mentioned in the article was being nice about the whole situation, but a pass should not be given to Fortis Alberta.
I'm not sure what contribution Fortis Alberta actually made to the Healing Garden. But what gives them the right to mark out their name at this site of healing? There were many people involved in the creation of the Healing Garden, so having this one corporation have their advertising there is appalling.
I went looking to see what other benches Fortis put up, and they do have a few. There is one I saw in a military cemetery, but guess what? Their name is not marked on the bench. Go figure! I guess the military wouldn't allow advertising at a memorial site, so why did we?
I can blame Fortis all I want, they are a corporation, after all, looking to advance their image in any way. But the real blame has to go to the City of St. Albert. How could they allow this? There was a Healing Garden committee that helped create that garden, why would the city have not consulted that group? At the very least that would make logical sense. Instead, many were kept in the dark until just days before the bench was put up.
It really is unbelievable that a place for healing now how this black spot. The bench itself doesn't even fit aesthetically with the Healing Garden. What's worse is that for anyone new who discovers the Healing Garden, they are going to think Fortis Alberta put it there. It's just mind numbing that no one at the city thought of these things. Shame on Fortis Alberta. But even bigger shame on the admin staff and council for the city's approval of this. They have just taken reconciliation back a few steps. No wonder it is difficult for our Indigenous Peoples to trust those in power. The only way the city can redeem itself, possibly, is by removing the bench and issuing an apology.
Randall Smith, St. Albert